As Fiorentina suffered a humiliating defeat to Frosinone last weekend, it was only right that the club’s owners paused to consider head coach Stefano Pioli’s future. For months, the man in charge had failed to solve the glaring issues in midfield, through what seemed like a mixture of stubborness and ineptitude.
Supporters of Inter and Lazio, Pioli’s previous clubs, told the same tale, of a man with a good heart, but one who was simply not capable of coaching a club with ambitions of reaching Europe. Indeed, Fiorentina currently sit in 10th position in the league, having drawn a staggering 15 of their 31 matches so far.
With just seven to play in Serie A, the Viola hierarchy decided to keep Pioli on board, but showed their own incompetence with a bizarrely worded statement that only served to anger all those connected with the Tuscan side.
Ultimately, that meant that Pioli himself took control of the situation and quit his role on Tuesday. “I have always taken on my responsibility for choices, strategies, performances, and results,” wrote the coach in an open letter to the supporters. “I always guaranteed in my work professionalism, focus, respect, and the utmost effort with the only scope of improving the human and technical resources at my disposal.
“With heavy heart, today I see myself forced to leave, resigning because my professional and above all human capabilities were questioned.”
While the outcome in itself was probably justified after some terrible performances, once again, the Fiorentina owners showed a real lack of class in the way that it was handled.
This was a man who held the weight of the world on his shoulders when his captain Davide Astori shockingly passed away in his sleep just over a year ago, putting his own grief to the side while he nurtured his young team through the pain, selflessly representing the club in one of its darkest hours.
Pioli’s value as a human being has never once been questioned by those who follow the Viola, and it was clear in the former boss’ statement that they have successfully transmitted that love to him. “My thanks to the city of Florence and the Fiorentina fans,” he continued in his letter. “A special bond has been created that I will always carry with me, because adventures may end, but emotions remain strong and present in all of us.”
He is right that all adventures eventually come to an end, and however grateful the supporters may be, it is now time to consider rectifying some of the issues on the pitch.
Rumors were rife that former AS Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco would be the one to take over the reigns at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, yet it very soon emerged that former Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella would be swiftly appointed following Pioli’s resignation. Reliable transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio reported that he would be offered a contract until 2020, and from there it was clear that a deal had been done.
On the surface, it seems strange that Montella would consider a second stint on the bench in Florence, considering the acrimonious way in which he left in 2015. The former Roma forward enjoyed a superb three-year spell in charge of the club in which he achieved three consecutive fourth-place finishes and took his side to the Europa League semifinal.
Yet he was sacked by the club’s owners for daring to ask for extra funds that would give the team the necessary push to reach the Champions League, and in the end the split was very bitter indeed. Poor spells at Sampdoria AC Milan and Sevilla have followed for Montella, but now seems the perfect moment for him to reunite with his former side.
The coach himself needs a familiar environment in which to rebuild his career and reputation, and he can do so with Fiorentina, who have a core of talented young players. The issue that saw him leave four years ago will not rear its head for a good while yet, as the mid-table Viola have a long way to go before they are anywhere near the level they were at when L’aeroplanino left last time.
For the penny-pinching owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle, they now have a boss who has a proven track record, one who can certainly make the most of the young, yet bargain basement, side they have constructed. Let’s not forget that there is a Coppa Italia semifinal second leg with Atalanta still to come, the scores poised at 3-3 from the match in Florence back in February.
Should Montella get the team to the final, his tenure will already be judged as a success, giving him a stable platform to build upon in the summer. The new man still has an unblemished reputation amongst the Viola faithful as, following three years of enjoyable, attacking football, he stood up to the owners the majority of them truly despise.
That Pioli did much of the groundwork won’t go unnoticed among them though, as Fiorentina fans breathe a sigh of relief that his poor football is behind them, yet hold him in their hearts forever.